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Sin and vegetarianism - Off in the distance
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May 2016
 

The Bellinghman
Date: 2010-02-18 12:59
Subject: Sin and vegetarianism
Security: Public
There seem to be a tradition that although vegetarians may not eat beef, port pork, chicken and other such products of mammals and birds, that they can still eat fish. (Whether they can eat alligator, turtle, locusts, snails or other creatures is not something I've yet found out.) Like many others, I've often wondered about the origin of this, since it seems a bit weird, but the other evening, I think I encountered a plausible reason.

It appears that it comes down to the Christian tradition of fasting. Supposedly, the reason for 'not eating meat' during Lent, or on a Friday, or if you're a monk or the like, is that eating meat is indirectly partaking of the original sin. Animals reproduce by breeding, and in the case of mammals and birds, breeding involves copulation. If copulation is sinful, then the product of copulation - even that of animals - is also to some extent sinful, and therefore their flesh should be avoided.

Fish, on the other hand, do not copulate. Therefore, the flesh of fish is not the product of sin. And thus it is permitted to eat fish.

Okay ...

(Though whoever categorised whales as fish never went out with the sperm whalers. And also not all piscine species use the eggs-and-milt approach.)

Edit: for silly typo - thanks Feòrag.
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Flick
User: flick
Date: 2010-02-18 13:02 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Also, iirc, rabbits are fish. Which is just weird. And guinea pigs.
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The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2010-02-18 13:09 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I can see the confusion between pikas and pikes, but ...

Edited at 2010-02-18 01:09 pm (UTC)
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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2010-02-18 13:41 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
No, non, no, you misunderstand. Port's just too good for veggies!

(I'll run away now, shall I?)

(Of course, port really should be drunk, not ate. If it's got to the consistency where you are trying to eat it, then it quite possibly has had a little too much gelatine used, and has turned into a jelly.)
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Alex McLintock
User: alexmc
Date: 2010-02-18 14:29 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Oh dear, poor vegetarians!
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oldbloke
User: oldbloke
Date: 2010-02-18 13:40 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
That may influence some vegetarians, and if that includes the Vegetarian Authorities it'll filter down somewhat, but I suspect most modern day veggies are unaware of such concerns and it comes down to fish not having legs and not doing the baby-animal-big-eyes thang.

Me, I'll eat anything that can't explain Pythagoras's Theorem.
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The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2010-02-18 13:51 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I've met some pretty cute fish, to be honest. There's an aquarium in Helsinki where there's one particular large tank full of various swimming species, from pollack and cod through to various dogfish and rays.

Come feeding time, the rays and dogfish will be begging at the surface, and will look plaintively towards any visitors leaning over the edge.

(The cod and pollack, though, are positively bovine - no, that's unfair to cows - totally oblivious to what may be happening.)
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Sarcasticia Nitpickerson
User: tisiphone
Date: 2010-02-18 13:58 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Yes... and rather more pragmatically, in medieval Europe, which did not overwinter a large number of domestic animals and did not have ample stocks of wild animals past about 1200 or so, restricting the eating of sinful, sinful flesh and sticking only to what the sea (and the rabbit hutches, and sometimes the bird coops) could provide meant that seed animals actually made it to spring instead of being devoured by rich, hungry burghers and hungry peasants and greedy priests. Well, sometimes the priests gave themselves an out.

Edited at 2010-02-18 02:01 pm (UTC)
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The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2010-02-18 14:06 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
... and the rivers and fish ponds, too. As a Brit, I do tend to think of fish as being something that comes from the sea, but in a lot of Europe, the fish eaten are primarily freshwater.

IIRC, there were cultures where a nice big carp was the celebration dish.
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Perdita
User: perdita_fysh
Date: 2010-02-18 15:26 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Thanks for the explanation, I'd often wondered where that weirdness came from. Particularly as I know many vegetarians and not one of them eats fish or could fathom why one might be a vegetarian and think that it was ok to make an exception for fish!
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The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2010-02-18 15:57 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Yeah. It seems to be some sort of folk memory in action, rather than a reflection of what (most) modern vegetarians actually do.

I suspect that it's even more annoying for vegetarians being offered fish as 'yes dear, I know you're a vegetarian, this is only fish'.
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ms_cataclysm
User: ms_cataclysm
Date: 2010-02-18 19:38 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I've always understood the fish eating vegetarian thing to be an American thing. Am I wrong ?
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The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2010-02-18 22:56 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm not aware that there's any particular American tinge to it. But perhaps I'm wrong.
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Cassandra
User: sesquipedality
Date: 2010-02-19 08:00 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
You are incorrect. Vegetarians do not eat fish. Or rabbit. Or prawns, or anything else from the animal kingdom.

Some people who do these things may call themselves vegetarians, but calling myself a dwarf wouldn't make it true.

Those people you describe are "people who do not eat meat". If they would like a word, they need to find their own.
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The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2010-02-19 08:58 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
You've just done it yourself. You've just defined the flesh of fish as not being meat.
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